Comcast Hires SS+K to Help Bridge the Digital Divide

Shop to focus on Internet Essentials program

The Comcast-Time Warner merger is off but not Comcast's push to reduce the digital divide.

In fact, Comcast has hired SS+K to focus on marketing Internet Essentials, a 4-year-old program that supplies broadband Internet access to low-income families. The New York shop landed the assignment after a pitch against two other undisclosed agencies.

Comcast and SS+K didn't disclosed media spending, but sources estimated its annual value would exceed $20 million. Previously, various Comcast roster shops and its in-house marketing group created ads around the program.

SS+K's work is expected to take the form of traditional and digital ads, social media marketing and events. The first campaign is slated for the fall.

Agency partner Lenny Stern likened the assignment to working on corporate initiatives for the likes of Allstate ("X the TXT") and Wells Fargo ("Small is huge") as well as its marketing around the Livestrong bracelet.

"The digital divide has hindered progress all over this country for a generation. Tons of people talk about the problem, but few are really doing something about it," Stern said. "Comcast is walking the walk."

Since its inception, Internet Essentials has connected more than 450,000 families to the Web at a cost of $9.95 a month, according to Comcast. Collectively, those families represent about 1.8 million people. Also, as part of the program, participating families have been able to buy 38,000 computers at a subsidized cost of $150.

In selecting SS+K, Karima Zedan, senior director of Internet Essentials at Comcast, cited the shop's creative abilities, "experience with mission-driven brands and track record of driving meaningful community engagement."

Other SS+K accounts include HBO, Jackson Hewitt, JW Marriott, E-Trade and FreshDirect.